Healthy Living/Wellness Education Programs for TESOL Students at Queens Public Library Branches

Queens Library at Elmhurst

SHAREing & CAREing has been partnering with TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Adult Education Learning Centers and the Community Health Outreach program at the Queens Public Library to offer health and wellness education classes integrated with literacy curriculum. These programs have been developed and facilitated by S&C Program Manager Merryl Reichbach, LCSW and coordinated by Tamara Michel, MPH, CLC Community Health Coordinator of the Queens Public Library. Funding for these programs is being provided by the New York City Council.

This innovative initiative has enabled us to provide vital health information to students in a context in which they are already receiving education in a venue they trust. The health curricula we provide (classes have included Welcome to the USA and Queens, Heart Health, Guided Meditation, Insomnia, Cancer Screening and Prevention, Understanding and Managing Depression, Stress Management, Winter Wellness and Managing Test-Taking Anxiety) has been helpful in sustaining the wellness underserved adult students who might not otherwise be exposed to this information in a substantial way.

Queens has the highest number of immigrants than any other borough. In 2011, nearly half of Queens residents were foreign-born. According to the Queens Public Library website, an estimated 36% of adult New Yorkers cannot read a prescription label, newspaper or fill out a job application. An additional 25% of Queens residents do not speak English. The Queens Library system has seven Adult Learning Centers, with full-time professional staff and volunteers who tutor literacy groups and facilitate English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) conversation groups. Centers also offer Basic Adult Education (ABE) classes. Our health classes integrate important healthy living/wellness information while also assisting with learning English language skills.

Adult learners particularly appreciate curricula that is relevant to their immediate needs. At our workshops, students will often discuss serious health concerns, including mental illnesses and cancer. We follow up immediately by offering counseling, navigation, financial assistance as well as referrals to other relevant providers. Students often have little awareness of the support available to them and accessing it can make a crucial difference in their lives. As many TESOL students are immigrants, getting crucial information when it is most needed can positively impact their transition to living in the USA and Queens.

SHAREing & CAREing’s Queens Library Wellness programs have been a huge success! Our 14 wellness programs have reached over 200 students. S&C health education classes have been offered in five TESOL programs so far, including branches in Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, Elmhurst and Rochdale Village. The Elmhurst and Rochdale Village Adult Learning Centers have had such a positive response from students and teachers, that they each requested a monthly wellness series. We will be implementing wellness series at both libraries starting in April and May, and running through the summer.

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